Sunday, March 25, 2018

Kandidat-O-Mat

To foster their objective of political education the Landeszentrale für politische Bildung (LpB = Baden-Württemberg State Center of Political Education) developed a Wahl-O-Mat (Election-O-Tomat) where during a run-up of an election, parties are requested to present their positions on political issues in a written form. These questions and answers are then compiled into a table so voters may directly compare the positions of the parties standing for election.

For the upcoming election of Freiburg’s mayor, the LpB modified the system calling it Kandidat-O-Mat (no translation necessary). Students were asked to formulate theses to topics that they regard as important for the city. Following some iterations, the Badische Zeitung (BZ) and the LpB proposed to launch their new tool for the first time in the upcoming election. The result was a crushing belly landing when the incumbent mayor, Dr. Dieter Salomon, refused to participate in the Kandidat-O-Mat calling its format superficial.

Green incumbent
Independent hopeful
Green alternative
The other Green
A shitstorm broke loose on Facebook and in the discussion forum of the BZ where I seconded Dieter’s decision writing: So ein Kandidat-O-Mat ist eine feine Sache für die Herausforderer, können sie doch in der Gewissheit, nicht gewählt zu werden, das Blaue vom Himmel versprechen. Ein Amtsinhaber muss jedoch im Rahmen der ihm bekannten Möglichkeiten (Finanzen und Mehrheit im Stadtrat) agieren und sieht dann gegenüber den anderen Kandidaten »alt« aus. Dem Kandidat-O-Mat fehlt die gemeinsame Ausgangsbasis und deshalb finde ich die Entscheidung Salomons richtig (Such a Kandidat-O-Mat is a fine thing for the challengers since they can promise the blue in the sky while being certain not to be elected. An incumbent candidate, however, has to maneuver within the scope of the possibilities he well knows about (the budget and majorities in the city council). He, therefore, will look "old" compared to the other candidates. The Kandidat-O-Mat lacks a common starting point. This is why I regard Salomon’s decision as being justified).

I got the shit right blown into my face: Herr Höfert, Sie denken also auch, daß der Wähler so dumm ist und das nicht berücksichtigen kann? Der Wähler zu dumm, um selbständig zu denken? Zu dumm für Volksentscheide? Ja, das ist gängige Meinung der Herrschenden, Lammert und Gauck hatten es ausgesprochen (Mr. Höfert, do you think too that the voter is so stupid and is unable to take this into account? Is the voter too stupid to think independently? Too stupid for referenda? Yes, that is the common opinion of rulers, Lammert [former speaker of the Bundestag (parliament)] and Gauck [former federal president] said it).

Well, I am far from being a ruler and the Kandidat-O-Mat is not a referendum, although having lived in Switzerland for 32 years I noted that in many cases people were overstrained by the topics of the referenda the had to vote on.

As far as my argument in support of Dr. Salomon is concerned I soon was proven right with respect to the financing of Kitas. Kindertagesstätten (daycare centers) are an essential part of the German society where single mothers and fathers can park their not yet school-age children during the day while earning the bread for their small family.

The city of Freiburg subsidizes the municipal Kitas up to 60% financially, but lately envisaged an increase in the parents' financial contributions due to increasing costs. This increase initially planned for the near future was postponed when the city encountered strong headwinds. Quite naturally the Kandidat-O-Mat confronted the candidates for mayor with the following thesis: The fees for Kitas must be increased.

On Facebook Candidate Martin Horn answered no: Klares Votum: Mit mir wird es keine Gebührenerhöhung geben! Ich stehe für eine Reduzierung der Kita-Gebühren und werde mich aktiv für eine Abschaffung einsetzen - vor allem auch auf Landes- und Bundesebene (A clear vote: With me there will be no increase in fees! I stand for a reduction of Kita fees and will actively work for their abolition - especially on the national and federal level too). Well roared, lion.

No word on how to finance his promises.

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